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This Week in Food History: A Giant Ball of Cheese

This week in food manufacturing history, we’ll travel back to Massachusetts' giant cheese ball, the opening of the first Arby's restaurant and a state ban that changed the California food industry, among other stories.

This week in food manufacturing history, we’ll travel back to Massachusetts' giant cheese ball, the opening of the first Arby's restaurant and a state ban that changed the California food industry, among other stories. 

A giant ball of cheese

On July 20, 1801, the small Massachusetts town of Cheshire — located in Berkshire County — made a 1,235-pound ball of cheese.

The cheese was meant as a gift for the newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson, and was shipped off to Washington D.C.

While Jefferson was a popular figure in the western part of the state, he was not so adored by the citizens of eastern Massachusetts. So when news of the "mammoth cheese" reached that part of the state, it caused consternation.

Jefferson had defeated John Adams, who was a Massachusetts' native son, and won the presidency. 

Cheshire's cheese was said to be a sign of the tensions over ideology, economics and politics that long divided the state's eastern and western regions.

And...more cheese

The first cheese factory in the U.S. to make cheese from scratch was started in Rome, New York on July 20, 1851.

Jesse Williams, an upstate New York dairy farmer, discovered that he could create cheeses more efficiently and with more uniform taste and texture by pooling milk purchased from local dairy farmers and making large batches using a basic assembly line.

Before then, companies would buy small batches of homemade cheese curd from local farmers to make into cheese — each batch of curds producing cheese with wide differences in taste and texture from one another.

Slicing up freshness

If you enjoy a warm Arby's roast beef sandwich from time to time, then you will be happy to know that it was this week in history that the company opened its first restaurant.

On July 23, 1964, LeRoy and Forrest Raffle opened the first Arby's restaurant in Boardman, Ohio.

At that point in time, the establishment only served roast beef sandwiches, potato chips and beverages. Today, the restaurant boasts a menu full of various sandwiches, appetizers, desserts and more.

This was the only Arby's restaurant for a year as the brothers refined the operation. One year later, the first Arby's licensee opened a restaurant in Akron, Ohio. Today, more than 500 licensees operate more than 3,200 restaurants worldwide.

No more trans fats

California became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants and retail food establishments on July 25, 2008, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 97.

The bill, commonly referred to as the Trans Fat Bill, required restaurants to reduce the amount of trans fats in their margarine, oil and shortening to less than half a gram per serving by Jan. 1, 2010.

While several cities have banned trans fats in restaurants, California became the state to do so. 

Keep an eye out next week for more on Food History! You can find last week’s history here. If you know of an important date in food history that you would like to see featured, please email me at [email protected].

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